Learn more about these common pregnancy complaints, what you can do to feel better, and when to see your care provider if they become severe:
Pregnancy causes a lot of changes to your body that can cause discomfort. Many women experience these discomforts. Although they are a normal part of pregnancy, they can be very uncomfortable.
You may have heard about morning sickness and extreme tiredness, but what about these other common but less talked about pregnancy symptoms.
- Book yourself a dentist appointment (it’s free through the NHS during pregnancy and for 12 months afterwards).
- Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes.
- Ask your dentist about getting a professional clean.
- Avoid sugary and acidic drinks and foods (particularly in between meal times).
- Quit smoking.
- If you have morning sickness, rinse your mouth with water after being sick. Try and wait an hour before you brush your teeth (they’ll be softened by the acid in your tummy).
If you’re one of the unlucky ones rudely awoken by a sudden sharp pain in your leg, try gently exercising your legs, ankles and feet during the day – and see if that prevents it:
- Point your toes and flex your foot up and down vigorously 30 times. Repeat on the other side.
- Rotate your foot to make a circle, eight times on each foot.
Been feeling slightly dizzy or faint? There are a number of reasons that you can feel faint in pregnancy; these can be hormonal changes, low blood pressure, you may become overheated or have low iron levels. Some useful tips to help are:
- Get up slowly after sitting or lying down.
- As soon as you feel faint, find a seat quickly – if the faintness doesn’t pass, lie down on your side.
- If you feel faint while lying on your back, turn on your side.
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
Your body pumps more blood in pregnancy – that and hormones can make you feel unbearably hot:
- Invest in a desk fan for work and your bedroom.
- Carry a small, battery-operated fan around with you.
- Wear loose, breathable fabrics.
- Stay hydrated and always have a bottle of water handy.
- Take a dip in a refreshing bath, or, better still, go for a swim.
Yep you guessed it – those hormones are probably to blame again.
- Try to rest when you can.
- Keep hydrated.
- Find ways to relax, like pregnancy yoga.
- If you need painkillers, make sure you take the recommended dose. Not all pain relief is safe to take in pregnancy. Have a chat with your midwife or GP about what medication to avoid.
If you have a severe headache that does not go away it is important you are checked out by your GP or midwife.
Indigestion and heartburn
Hormones and, later in pregnancy, your womb pressing on your stomach can sometimes leave you bloated, burpy, sick or with a nasty heart burning sensation.
- Make a note of what sets it off. Try to avoid these foods (spicy foods, chocolate and fruit juice are often to blame), especially in the evenings.
- Try eating smaller meals more frequently.
- Sit up straight when you’re eating to take the pressure of your stomach.
- Finish eating about three hours before bedtime.
- Try drinking milk when you get heartburn (and keep a glass handy in the night).
- Prop yourself up with pillows in bed.
- Ask your midwife or GP about antacids.
Swollen ankles, hands and feet
Your body holds more water in pregnancy, which can move towards the lowest parts of your body making your ankles, hands and feet swell.
- Take a load off: Avoid standing for long periods of time
- Prop your feet up so they’re higher than your heart for about an hour each day
- Do some stretches: Point your toes down and release upwards, 30 times. Then circle your ankles eight times – both feet.
As soon as you fall pregnant, hormones can play havoc with your digestive system, leaving you constipated.
- Make sure you’re getting enough fibre – eat lots of fruit and veg, pulses, wholemeal breads and cereals.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Keep active.
- If you’re taking iron supplements (which can make you constipated), chat to your GP about your options
Get more advice about constipation and suitable laxatives from NHS Choices.
For some women, hormones can also cause the opposite to constipation – diarrhea . If this is the case for you, drink plenty of fluids and see your GP if it does not go away after 48 hours. Check with a midwife, doctor or pharmacist before taking any medication to stop diarrhea.
Symptoms differ from one woman to the next and some suffer more than others but pelvic pain – also known as pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain (PPGP) or symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) – can be debilitating. Make these simple adjustments to ease the discomfort:
- Sit down to get dressed, rather than standing on one leg to put knickers and trousers on.
- Keep your knees together when you get in and out of the car.
- Avoid carrying heavy things in one hand – use a backpack instead.
- Don’t do breast stroke when swimming.
- Stop exercises that might make your symptoms worse.
See more information on SPD/PGP.
Your body needs extra iron for your baby, which means you can miss out. Lack of iron can leave you feeling tired and breathless. Other symptoms can include looking paler than normal and, in some cases, noticeable heart beats (heart palpitations).
The trick is to eat plenty of iron-rich foods, combined with vitamin C (such as a glass of orange juice) to help your body absorb it. Avoid caffeinated drinks at mealtime, as they can interfere with iron absorption. Try:
- dark-green leafy veg like broccoli
- dried fruit like apricots
- iron-fortified cereals and bread
- pulses and beans
- nuts and seeds.
If your red blood cell count is low, your GP may prescribe an iron supplement. Ask your midwife if you have any questions. Find out more about anaemia in pregnancy.
If you experience feeling faint or dizzy then please contact your GP or midwife.